Another day, another LEGO Masters interview! To close out the season we're going to chat with the second place team today to hear about their time on the show. The interview was conducted by a panel of LEGO fan sites who asked the questions, and the final interview was transcribed by Megan from Brickset, Flynn from The Brothers Brick, Tom from True North Bricks, and BZPower's reporting team. There's a lot of insight about their inspiration, their process, and what the show and their fellow competitors meant to them!
How did your heritage play a role in your journey on LEGO Masters?
Zack: It kind of just pops out. It's like that old joke your dad would always say. I guess we have family stories. When my brother tells a story, I've heard the story a million times. But when you're on LEGO Masters, it is the first time anybody else gets to hear it outside of us. The stuff we put on LEGO Masters were stories that we've heard a million times.
Wayne: I guess that's the thing: you are the summation of your experiences and your preferences. To be fair, we were the only Chinese people on the TV show. I thought we would kind of flesh it out because we had Moby Dick. Funny story with that: I actually happen to be quite a buff on the history of whaling. You know that's one of the big reasons why the Revolutionary War was won? Because the Americans had to pay for a lot of stuff with whale oil. When it came to Panacio, the Fencer, Zack read a book.
Zack: Cyrano de Bergerac.
Wayne: He's this guy who is extremely talented, but he's very sensitive about his nose. It's basically a tale about a guy who has what he considers a deformity, but it doesn't stop him from being excellent.
Zack: Words are said that kind of stick in your mind when you're in the competition. One of them was definitely "panache." That's one of the words that got stuck in my head. Some of the other words were, "extreme," and "large."
Wayne: "Never seen before."
Zack: "Never seen before," right. As you're there and you're picking up what people are saying, that's going to influence your thinking or the way you're building.
Wayne: Basically, you're digging really deep every single time. The worst thing you can do is try and close your mind up. It's like iterations, right? This is how you build it the first time and that makes you think, "Okay, what could we do to make this next level?" A lot of stuff we build is trial and error.
Your team was known for technical builds. How do you come up with your ingenious structural components?
Zack: I build a lot of technical stuff: LEGO robots with functions and mechanisms, tanks, military vehicles, trucks. That's my background of LEGO building. Usually, I figure out the mechanism, but never get around to dressing it up or making it look pretty. That's definitely what was happening with LEGO Masters. Usually it goes in that order, we come up with the structure, the general mass that you want to put in there. Then we add the final details. We usually ended up with three or four creative elements. You get a landscape, you get a character, then you have an environment. On top of that, you have a mechanism that amplifies either your environment or it amplifies your character.
Where do you draw artistic inspiration for your builds?
Zack: There's definitely culture involved. Chinese and Asian mythology. Those are the stories that we can identify with, so we take a lot of interest in them. That's definitely one. Moby Dick is kind of what inspired the whale. It's a bit of a stretch, but I used to do crew rowing. And so, when I was in crew rowing, I would ask myself: "Why is it that people row in a boat?" It actually stems all the way back to when people would be whaling. They'd be hunting whales and then dragging the whale back to shore. So, I can identify with that. We have the Punisher build that's supposed to be a lowrider. There's a lot of lowriders in Stockton. The hat was from archery.
Wayne: Robin Hood.
Zack: The alien was because we liked building spaceships when we were younger. Just all kinds of fun ideas. Remembering what we liked growing up and trying to put it into LEGO Masters. Even the flying pig. That was just one wacky idea.
Wayne: We were kind of going, Willy Wonka meets Howl's Moving Castle. What is this absurd concoction?
Zack: I think just the wings were like Howl's Moving Castle. The pig idea is something you'd see in some kind of weird cartoon.
Wayne: Like a surreal movie.
Zack: We really drew on a breadth of ideas. When we were really feeling a meaningful build it was definitely in the Asian context.
Wayne: Yeah, I guess that's just one of the things where we had an advantage. Just as much as we are Chinese, we're Americans. We do value all those things. Long story short, we read a lot of books, and it seems like we watch a lot of movies too. Anything that we liked, we kind of tried to bring that into our builds.
Zack: For me, when it comes to the technical, I build a lot of tanks and military vehicles. Whenever I could say, "Oh, I've seen this kind of mechanism before," I'd try and incorporate it into our builds. So that's another aspect, another dimension, that you can add.
What details of your finale build were not shown in the episode?
Zack: I can explain what the build was supposed to be. It was a whole lot of ideas smashed together. It was a pagoda with a waterfall scene in the back. Then you had these two dragons that were coming around. We also had this whole idea of having fish coming up the waterfall. There's this Asian myth: if a fish can jump over a waterfall, they become a dragon. That's supposed to represent that you've accomplished your journey, you're a master. In each level of the building, we were telling little stories about our lives too. I was talking about my family. I had my sushi shop in there. We had my brother's archery range. One of these days, I'm going to have to remake that on my coffee table or something.
Out of all your builds throughout the season, which one was the most personal to you?
Zack: It would definitely have to be that final one. Our coolest build, just based on the general consensus, is the whale. If not the whale, the flying pig. I want to say the dragon, whale, and pig are on the same line. I feel like those are all pretty popular builds.
Wayne: They're all our children. You're not supposed to have favorites, right? Firstborn was the dragons. That sets the tone. Every build we made; we were trying to outdo ourselves. We've never tried to settle for good enough. The mentality was we have to treat every single build like it's the finale build. It's one of those things, you just never know. Is it enough? The judges have seen everything that you've been capable of doing so far. It becomes one of those things where you say: "What more can I do from there?" We think we're going 100%, but now they're asking for that extra 1%, something you've never seen before. That becomes the challenge. You've got to dig deep; you've got to find something you've never found before. It's unfortunate because, for me personally, that finale build is a build, to be honest with you. I'm glad that we were able to put out something. But my own personal feeling on the matter is that we know what we are capable of. We knew if we'd been able to execute what we were trying to do, it would have been something more. There's a lot of stuff that happened behind the scenes that we don't want to share. We'll just leave it at that.
Zack: With the final build, I wanted to do some pretty ambitious stuff. I wanted to have my dragons moving. I wanted it lit a specific way. I wanted it to turn. I wanted it to tell a story. I felt like I was trying to accomplish a lot. I was happy that I was able to accomplish the things that I was able to accomplish. One of these days I'm going to have to revisit the idea and really do exactly what I was thinking at the moment.
Wayne: In the end, all I know is I enjoyed building with this guy. We went in saying, "Hey, let's see what kind of an impression we can make." It seems like we left saying, "Okay, I guess we could do all the crazy things we wanted to."
Zack: That final build was where you could get to play around with building little figures and little characters. Building with scale, too. That was fun. With five million bricks, you have build something big.
Which of your builds are you most proud of?
Zack: The dragons and then the castle. I feel like the dragons brought us into LEGO Masters, and the castle pushed us over to the finish line. It's like we stretched out really far and we got over to the finale.
Wayne: I agree. And I have to really thank my brother for that. Literally, the morning of that episode, my friend had passed away. Minutes before we started filming. It was very conflicting feelings for me at that point. I actually had to ask myself: "Do I still want to be here?" I had to say: "I can't let Zack down. I have to do my part." It's bittersweet. It makes you appreciate what you have more, and you go on from there.
In the Land & Sea challenge, you combined two separate builds. How did that process go for you guys?
Wayne: First, it was a look of pure horror. "Oh my gosh, me and Zack have to build separately." I was telling myself this could be a real issue. I can build things fast, but in terms of creativity, I know anything I do pales in comparison to what Zack's going to do. Zack was going to make a lionfish. I knew he was going to make a lionfish, no matter what. My first intention was to make a tiger. I realized early on, I'm probably not going to be able to build a tiger. Then I remember Zack saying a long time ago, "Why don't you try building a peacock? It's not that hard, it should be something straightforward you can do." So, okay, I'm going to try and build a peacock. But then, wasn't this one of the builds for the finale in the last season? There was no way this was going to be easy. Somehow, I wound up on a croc. That's the first time I had worn the Kelsey bracelet. It's like, "Oh, thank you, Kelsey, I think you just saved us." Because Zack here, without me, doesn't know how to time-manage. Obviously, what happens is he waits until the last second and his tail falls off. We clearly build better together than separately. It was just funny; it turns out we built the exact same scale. It's like, "Whoa, that's spooky."
If you could add two extra hours to any of the challenges which one would it be?
Wayne: I want to say the Make and Shake challenge. That was probably the only time where we didn't use our time well. We had spent half the time thinking about what we were going to do. I think with an extra two hours, our tower would have gone all the way to ten. If we had just had 30 minutes I'm sure we could have broken the machine.
You finished in the top two often, but you only won twice. What was that like to constantly have somebody beat you?
Wayne: I have, obviously, a lot of feelings about it. Long story short, I can say without a doubt that whenever we put up anything, we always felt like we were trying to go for the number one build. Obviously, there's other people saying things that they will say. I can say that we had our pride, in that regard. If I had to be honest about the finale build, I can accept the fact that we weren't able to really accomplish all the things we wanted to do. Had it been judged differently, I would have been okay with third place. The thing that Caleb and Jacob made was really outstanding. I'm an archery coach and I always tell everyone I genuinely don't like second place because it means you're the first-place loser. In the end, with those challenges, as long as we did something worth remembering. I hope people enjoyed it and really thought it was something amazing. For me, I know what we put out, and I know people are going to like it. We'll just leave it at that. Now it's for the audience to decide which one they really like.
Zack: You win some, you lose some. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it doesn't. I kind of said, "As long as we make it to the final, we have an opportunity of winning this thing." We got up to second place, and I'm trying to keep it in that level of positivity. Because you can get tunnel vision, trying to win the whole thing. Then you miss all the other objectives. You've got to put on a good show; you've got to show what you're all about. You've got to win the crowd, too.
Wayne: I felt like everything we built was pretty close to finale level grade. Everyone keeps telling me they really liked the hat until I had to admit that was actually a pretty good build. At the time, I wasn't feeling so great because, on top of the fact that we had just lost the golden brick, I was also suffering from a little bit of a cold. My low energy was compounded. But it seems like everyone really liked the hat. So, you know, what can I say?
Throughout the season you seemed fairly reserved. It didn't seem like you had as much banter as some of the other groups. Was there something we may not have seen?
Wayne: This is the funniest thing ever. The honest consensus was we may have accidentally scared everyone after the first episode. The first people I really opened up to were Jack and Dawn. There were a lot of things that they experienced which I relate with a lot. Going on from there, I really bonded a lot with Jen and Susan. Jen is a really hardcore person, she's fierce, and she's a nurse. She can save your life. She was my personal favorite. [points to Zack] I don't even like this guy as much as I like her.
Zack: I guess for me, when we are competing, I am 100% dialed in. I'm not able to talk with anyone, and anything can trigger me. You don't want to be cursing on the camera.
Wayne: You know who was the most fun to interact with? Caleb and Jacob. I almost felt like, "Oh, my young son, you're developing into such a fine young man." The ups, the downs. It's like Luke Skywalker. When Caleb ran off that ramp thing, it's like when Luke lost his hand. But he came back even stronger and better. We could tell you endless stories about how much we loved chatting with everyone back in holding. It was this very special bunch of people. That's all I can say. Also, you don't realize it right there, I had been talking for at least the equivalent of three hours each episode. I was not reserved.
Zack: Wayne was not reserved at all. Oh my God.
Wayne: I think I should have learned my lesson: you have to talk in quotable comments. I have a tendency to talk with one big sentence.
In the finale, you wore one of Jack and Dawn's Kelsey bracelets. How did that happen?
Wayne: Basically, Jack and Dawn had been eliminated in the first round. Jen got a chance to see Dawn on the way out. They said, "Wouldn't it be great if we took the Kelsey bracelet and passed it around?" The production schedule is quite tedious, and really kind of heated things up to the point where it made us closer together as a group. We really were sad to see anyone go. That was kind of our sign of solidarity, saying that no matter what, we're always going to be LEGO Masters. We're always going to be friends and family first. It's thicker than blood, the bond that we share. No one will ever really see all the things that we saw. But those who know, know that we're family first and foremost. I will happily say that. Everyone here, I would fight tooth and nail on their behalf. No one can say anything bad about them and get away with it.
Zack: I feel like this season, it was always in the background. Kelsey passed away from cancer. A lot of our friends were passing away from cancer just right at this one moment. And everybody knows somebody... Jack was a cancer survivor. Maria was a cancer survivor. Jen's son was a cancer survivor. It was like: let's be good together. Let's be happy together. Let's bring some happiness into this world.
Do you have any fun memories from interacting with Will, Jamie, and Amy?
Wayne: I love Will. Will is fun. There's two laughs that you'll see on the show. There's the normal laugh. But when Will said to us that he had an excellent name for our build for the floating brick episode: "Moby Brick," that made me laugh a lot. Thank you, Will, you gave me a few knee-slappers right there. That was my favorite moment. Then, I appreciated him the most when he was bringing us back together for the land and sea challenge. I was just like, "Oh thank you, Will, I love you so much more than Evil Will."
Zack: It's just the looks on their [Brickmasters Amy and Jamie's] faces when they're trying to talk to you about your builds. I like to let the build do the talking, I'm that type of person. When they give you a look about your builds, they say something but that's not what their face is telling me. They're basically telling me something else like, 'yeah, kudos.'
Wayne: At some point we realized something: we're a little hard to put a finger on. Very early on, we learned we can't describe ourselves half the time. Our original team name was supposed to be the Sushi Bros. It's because Zack and me were working at a sushi restaurant for a while before we got on the show. Before that we built buildings, we used to play airsoft and video games. At the end of the day, we're just Zack and Wayne.
Zack: They tried going by team names, but they just ended up with Zack and Wayne. Will is actually pretty empathetic, right? There were times when I was thinking: "Am I really sure I want to show off my build this way to the judges?" Then Will walks up and tells you: "It's how you sell it."
Wayne: Will's a big personality, but he has a good soul. At some point we understood, you know when someone has nothing but good intent for you and we felt that with Will.
How has the show influenced the way you build at home?
Zack: Whatever pops into your head, put it together. Try to put it in the right spot. It's almost like brainstorming. We have this thing we talked about when we were preparing to get onto LEGO Masters: The Ugly Fish Principle. If you pull a fish out of water, it might seem a little bit ugly. But in the right context, it's well suited for its environment. Sometimes my brother puts together something that's kind of weird, but it's not that bad if you put it in the right spot. That's kind of what happens. You put this weird shape in somewhere and it looks like a rock. You put another one, it starts to look like a waterfall.
Wayne: With this last one, we were aware that we build fast. That kind of seemed to be the overarching theme for Wayne and Zack. In episode three, with the Make and Shake challenge, we actually spent half of the four hours just thinking about it. That was something that had to be compensated for. This competition was kind of like us running a marathon at a sprint's pace. You really had to fall back on things that you knew. You need strength, technique, and aesthetics. The way a lot of these challenges went, there was a lot of strength and technical involved.
Zack: The builds that had to do with technical and strength had minor challenge requirements. I really got to explore more of the aesthetics, being more creative with whatever parts we had at hand. But we didn't really answer the question. How did it influence the way we build at home? Anything is a good idea. It's mind opening. You get to see everyone else's build and it's like: "Oh man, I'd love to get into castles."
Wayne: It adds more dimensions. Something you previously didn't touch on before, you'd like to add to your book too; see if you can put your own twist on it.
Were there any challenges from season one you wish they had done again?
Wayne: The bridge, the bridge!
Zack: I would definitely have loved the bridge.
Wayne: This guy is a bridge guy, The castle challenge was just as much a bridge challenge, I feel, because you got to extend the thing out. But if we were going to make a bridge, that would have been pretty darn epic.
Zack: I think another cool challenge would be the cut-in-half challenge. That's the one where they get half of an item and then meshed it with something else. That's just pure creativity that you need for that type of challenge. You just throw out any ideas.
Where can we expect to see you next?
Zack: I'm heading off to Brick Fest Live in Philadelphia. That's this weekend. There's going to be another Brick Fest Live on October 2nd.
Zack and Wayne deserve a huge congratulations for their accomplishments and so many awesome builds, from castles to flying pigs. We also appreciate them talking with us! Again, many thanks to everyone who contributed to this interview, especially Megan from Brickset who edited our transcriptions for flow and pacing. Also thanks to Jaycee and Abbey from Endemol Shine, the production company behind LEGO Masters, who arranged all of our interviews. We'll have more interviews and LEGO Masters coverage coming soon, so stay tuned right here on BZPower!